Obama reading JWN, responding well?

Back on Sunday (July 5), I blogged about Joe Biden’s “loose lips” statements that seemed to many Middle Easterners to give Israel a green light to attack Iran.
I ended the post saying,

    Obama now needs to go to some lengths, first to clearly restate that any Israeli strike against Iran is perilous for US lives and interests, and second, to try to get Biden to be a lot more disciplined when he speaks about momentous matters in the future.

Yesterday, Pres. Obama went forcefully on the record to (re-)state that,

    “It is the policy of the United States to try to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels.”

From my lips to Obama’s (interestingly sized) ears? Well, maybe, one way or the other.
Of course, a few other Americans also made the same appeal to Obama about Biden’s statement. Including Marc Lynch, who wrote Sunday,

    the administration urgently needs to come forward quickly with a restatement of its policy — and make sure the Israelis and others in the region understand it clearly — or else it risks paying some extraordinarily serious costs.

Marc also did a good job there in pulling together the bad effects the Biden statement was already having by then, within the Arabic and Hebrew-language discourse in the Middle East. Which, as I’ve argued elsewhere, is a very important part of the audience for any US leadership pronouncements on matters in that region. (That is, it actually matters a lot more how Israelis, Arabs, and Iranians themselves interpret such statements than it matters whether Juan Cole or others of us here in the US might manage to massage– or not– Biden’s words into a more ‘reasonable’ interpretation.)

12 thoughts on “Obama reading JWN, responding well?

  1. JES

    Looks like Helena is part of the “Iran Lobby”. LOL.
    BTW, Helena, you may want to look at the last entry in the “Joe Biden’s loose lips” thread. Seems like someone is posting there who is using terms that I recall being censured by you for using!

  2. Christiane

    Personnally, I think that the whole thing was well coordinated between Biden and Obama.
    1) It seems that Biden repeated three times the fact that Israel was a sovereign nation and that the US couldn’t prevent them from attacking Iran if they wanted. Three times ? this isn’t a blunder.. this had to be calculated. The only question is for whom was it intended : a green light for the Israelians ? or an indirect threat to the Iranians ?
    2) Then Obama talked too. He said he was in favor of diplomacy in order to solve the Iranian nuclear problem (So there is an Iranian nuclear problem ? not second Mohammed El’Baradei : after all, Iran has a civilian and declared program and is part of the NPT treaty, accepting inspectors). But then Obama added that he would give an “opportunity” to the Iranians, who will have to seize it or .. anything was on the table.
    So in the end : the Americans will make a proposition, but if the Iranians don’t accept it.. then.. This elicit several questions :
    a) Why do the Americans think that they are entitled to make a proposal, as long as the Iranians respects their obligations under the NPT treaty ?
    b) Supposing that the Iranians weren’t respecting the treaty (contrary to what El’Baradei’s Commission is stating), then why should that be dealt by the Americans ? The Commission is reponsible and the US is one voice, but there are others as well, which need be respected.
    This looks like carrots and sticks.. and the sticks aren’t as big as during the BUsh era, but they are still there.
    Concerning Obama’s foreign policy, I share Gilbert Achcar’s view : Obama is waging a bipartisan foreign policy, aka nothing revolutionary nor new for the US : after 8 years of extreme right policy by Bush and co, what we see is merely a return to the usual foreign policy attitude of America (imperialism as usual). Here are the two articles in which he exposed his views (the first being more interesting in my view) :
    Obama and the Middle East 12th May 2009
    Obama’s Cairo Speech 6th June 2009

  3. Domza

    Yes, from South Africa I hear it the way that Christiane in France hears it, and not the optimistic way that Helena hears it in Virginia.
    And a special Hi! and a Hujambo? to President Obama. Karibu tena, mzee.
    May JWN become more international with each passing day.

  4. John Francis Lee

    Obama Denies ‘Green Light’ for Israeli Attack on Iran
    “I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact which is we can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are,” Obama said in Moscow. “What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to try to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels.”
    “We can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are… only Israel can do that. Israel has been dictating what “our” security interests are to us for forty years.. and you can rest assured that Israel will continue to do so under my administration. It is the policy of the United States to try to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels… and not to stand in the way of a pre-emptive Israel attack once we’ve failed.”
    “I as the commander in chief preserve the right to take whatever actions are necessary to protect the United States. But we are committed to a peaceful resolution to this conflict and I think it is still possible, but ultimately if we present an opportunity to the Iranians at some point, they’ve got to seize that opportunity,” he said.
    “I as the commander in chief preserve the right to take whatever actions are necessary to protect the United States after Israel does begin the war with Iran, but we are committed to a peaceful resolution to this conflict and I think it is still possible, but ultimately if we present an opportunity to the Iranians at some point, they’ve got to roll over or suffer the consequences.”

  5. epppie

    I’m so sorry, Helena, that you chose to be yet another irrelevant Obama Worshipper. In fact, as I know you know, since I know you can read, Obama simply reiterated what Biden said. And what BOTH said was essentially this, BARELY veiled: ‘we are not giving a green light to Israel, but we are giving a green light to Israel’. Any other interpretation is blatant bull. So I wonder, Helena, why you choose to be an agent for Obama propaganda? You know perfectly well that both Obama and Biden made statements calculated to provide them with cover if (when?) Israel attacks Iran, in which case Iran will surely strike US targets (because it can see right through Obama’s bs, even if you and your fellow Obama worshippers in the US fake alterna-punditry establishment pretend that you can’t) – everyone knows that Israel can’t do squat without US approval – and then these soundbites will be replayed for the US public, in support of Obama’s pretense that Iran’s attack on US targets was unprovoked and necessitates an all-out US assault on Iran (or perhaps a Mousavi takeover, or both, or whatever brings about ‘regime change’).
    But go-ahead and play your propaganda mindgames Helena. You, like Juan Cole and most fake alterna-pundits have chosen to be propagandists for the Obama war machine. It’s a tragedy, but it is what it is. I would be interested to see how you spin Obama’s capitulation to Israel’s hardliners on settlements, except that, well, I’m just not remotely interested in what you have to say, anymore, partly because I pretty much already know. So farewell. I won’t miss you, and I know you won’t miss me, but I’ll miss what you might have been able to accomplish for peace and justice had you not chosen to become part of the Propaganda Army.

  6. Domza

    Epppie! Epppppppiee! How could you flounce off like that?
    I despair. Just when I thought that Helena Cobban had cracked it and managed to create a rolling mass dialogue sans frontieres, Epppie goes and chucks a wobbly. Isn’t that just too typical?
    If Epppie was here, I would ask it what the virtual salon that would contain the entire discussion look like, if not like JWN? But maybe Epppie doesn’t want to engage with those that it doesn’t agree with, but prefers to talk to itself or its clones.

  7. Christiane

    Eppie,
    I find it quite insulting and unwarranted to name Helena “yet another irrelevant Obama Worshipper
    1) First I think that she doesn’t hesitate to critique his words or to convince him to make a move when she thinks it is needed.
    2) Helena is always trying to see the positive aspecdts of things and to take the politicians at their words.
    I don’t think it’s naivety or worshipping.. I following her blog since now many years allows me to make an hypothese on her attitude in font of life, I?d say she has a deliberate attitude to see the positive side of any situation and start from there to propose a way to go forward and to improve the attitude of the US toward the rest of the world and to promote peace.
    Is the glass half full or half empty ? ..
    Personnally, I think Helena’s constant effort to see the glass half full is very valuable : if you always look at the downsides of a situation or of an interlocutor, you can’t go forward, you become cinycal and do nothing… Well, at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m caught in a wish of more “realism” on her part.

  8. Jack

    As one who frequently disagrees with Helena’s (overly?) optimistic views, I have to agree with Christiane. With the exception of a very few, who see their job as distracting and inflaming, I find this blog an extremely useful tool for reasoned discussion. Even when I disagree with Helena, her views are always well reasoned and frequently provocative, but then, that is why we are here, isn’t it? And to learn from each other. I wish I was as optimistic as Helena, but since I am not, I still need to know that there are optimistic possibilities out there. Incidentally, I agree that , so far, Obama has shown a complete lack of either understanding or of spine on both domestic and foreign issues. Lets just hope he is just laying the groundwork for real change and not just a kindlier, gentler version of the past 8 years.

  9. brianj

    My sense is that Obama’s far reaching efforts at personal diplomacy are a continuation of America’s efforts to project power. His obvious charm gives a new face to the previous administration’s “with us or against us” stance but at each step new lines are laid in the sand. Under cover of the “Obama effect” the U.S. has escalated war in Afghanistan and pushed Pakistan closer to failed state status while successfully pressing Russia for resolution of its ambiguity toward the Taliban.
    This escalation has disturbing parallels to McNamara’s handiwork and would not have been possible unless the American military engine, stalled in the late stages of Bush’s term, had been reset.
    Obama has already pressured Russia more effectively than the inarticulate Bush was ever able to do. Using a solo good-cop-bad-cop routine he appears to have established a friendly working relation with Medvedev while bluntly characterizing Putin as a dinosaur. Asserting the sovereignty of Georgia and the Ukraine (indeed I think Barack has been reading JWN of late and I’d like to see Bush use “sovereignty” in a sentence) Obama seems to be attempting the 17th century game of “testing” the balance of power while asserting that the 19th-century trend of “great powers forging competing blocs” was a thing of the past.
    Preaching the rights of individual states to make their own decisions and non-intervention in their affairs should be the last thing for an American president to do but Obama pulls it off without being challenged. Quoting Pushkin and professing admiration for Russian culture he has evidently produced a positive response in Moscow but the result of his rebuke of Putin remains uncertain.
    Regarding Iran in particular the whole Biden-Obama green light matter seems like scripted showmanship. Any decision to act militarily against Iran would surely be co-ordinated through back channels between the U.S. and Israel. Even the most minimal U.S. involvment would entail considerable mutual logistical cooperation.
    American diplomacy is being steered back toward “engagement with pressure” after being thrown somewhat into confusion by the events surrounding Iran’s recent election. Because the U.S. was deprived of any opportunity for constructive engagement with Iran since early June this week’s activity serves as another reset while giving public assurance to Netanyahu that Obama has not forgotten about the “nuclear threat”.
    Forgive my wordiness – after lurking for a week I couldn’t help myself.
    p.s. epppie, please reconsider – your contribution is an important part of the JWN dynamic.

  10. scott h

    From Moscow’s interfax agency, have a hunch they read jwn too. :-} (So Eppie, ya think the Russians are part of the Obama pr machine too?)
    Moscow surprised by Biden’s remark on Israel’s sovereign right to strike Iran
    MOSCOW. July 8 (Interfax-AVN) – Moscow is surprised by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s remark to the effect that Israel is entitled to make a sovereign decision to attack Iran, made during an analytical program on U.S. television network ABC on Sunday.
    “We are greatly surprised by such remarks by U.S. Vice President Biden. As we understand, they radically differ from the approaches declared by U.S. President Barack Obama regarding ways to settle the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program, in particular, the U.S. preparedness to enter into dialogue with Iran and look for a solution to this problem using political and diplomatic methods,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said on Tuesday.
    “Moreover, in terms of international law, Biden’s statement goes against all UN Security Council’s resolutions on Iran. Resolutions 1737, 1747, and 1803 concerning the Iran issue were adopted under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which on no account envision the use of military force,” he said.
    “We have said repeatedly that an optimal way to settle the situation is joint work to find a political solution to the problem related to Iran’s nuclear program and, in a broad context, taking into account legitimate interests of all states in the region in the area of security,” Nesterenko said.

  11. Titus

    They are playing the good-cop-bad-cop and Helena attributes the second and predicatble move to Obama reading her blog. Fair enough, let’s test that by checking if Obama heeds her call to stop the drone attacks in Pakistan…
    These attacks are working like a charm and are obviously coordinated with the Pakistanis, despite their face saving protests. They follow the widely condemned Israeli method in Gaza, and the drones are the US version of the militants IEDs. Tax dollars well spent.
    Today Yahoo reports 45 dead in two attacks. Let’s if they stop with an apology to Helena:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/3268368
    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The United States conducted two drone missile strikes in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region Wednesday, killing at least 45 people, in the latest example of expanded direct American support for Pakistan’s military offensive against key Pakistani insurgent leaders.
    Pakistan routinely condemns U.S. missile strikes in the tribal region as a breach of its sovereignty. However, Wednesday’s attacks, the latest in a series against domestic foes of the Pakistani government, indicated that the two governments are coordinating closely, experts said.

  12. Helena

    Some excellent points here. Brianj, I think you have something with your personal ‘good-cop-bad-cop’ thing AND the thought that Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan– which yes, we certainly do have to atribute to him– has much in common with the LBJ/McNamara escalation in Vietnam.
    And yes, Titus, I certainly need to speak (write) out a LOT more forcefully against the drone killings than I yet have.

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